The default word that most people probably use when fantasizing about the pandemic ending and restrictions on their lives being lifted is “normal” — as in, they want life to return to normal.
It’s an understandable sentiment, I suppose, but is it a wise one? As the normal that’s being referenced, by definition, created the very circumstances that we find ourselves in today.
Instead, some are arguing we should seize the opportunity presented by the tattered state of our current world and aspire to a new normal — one which addresses the true challenges that face us related to climate change and the broader health of the environment.
That’s certainly not a universal sentiment. In the U.S., for instance, the Trump administration has used the pandemic as cover for rolling back regulations on the oil and gas sector and other industries that are designed to protect the environment and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Jason Kenney’s UCP government has done the same in Alberta, and conservative politicians and lobbyists are pressuring Ottawa to adopt a similar policy approach as part of its strategy to rebuild the Canadian economy. That includes direct support for the fossil fuel industry, and postponing regulations on clean fuel standards and methane emissions that are part of Canada’s commitment to tackle climate change.
A similar process is playing out in Europe, where governments are strategizing on investments that will need to be made to aid a post-pandemic recovery. But the tone there is different. In fact, on March 26 representatives of 13 countries including Germany, France, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands signed a declaration that any recovery plan should respect green principles and promote action on climate change, bio-diversity and other environmental goals.
What it boils down to, I guess, is do we want a return to a “normal” that has led us to the point we’re at today, or do we want to create a new normal that will better equip us to deal with the global reality of life in the 21st century?